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I am author of the books Political Internet(Routledge, 2017), Intimate Speakers ( Fingerprint! 2017), has finished the typescript of three books—first, on Internet and sexuality; second, on the negative impacts of social media; and third, a novel—and is presently working on a narrative non-fiction with the working title Lovescape: Why India is afraid of love.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

WTO: A Critical Appriasal, Lecture points by Biju P R



WTO principles

Founded in 1995 after the 8-year “Uruguay Round” of talks, it succeeded the General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade (GATT), which was created in 1948 to lower trade barriers. The scope of the WTO is greater, however, including services, agriculture, and intellectual property, not just trade in goods.
The main principles of the WTO boil down to the following:
Non discrimination
National treatment implies both foreign and national companies are treated the same, and it is unfair to favor domestic companies over foreign ones. Some countries have a most favored nation treatment, but under WTO the policy is that all nations should be treated equally in terms of trade. Any trade concessions etc offered to a nation must be offered to others.
Reciprocity
Nations try to provide similar concessions for each other.
Transparency
Negotiations and process must be fair and open with rules equal for all.
Special and differential treatment
A recognition that developing countries may require “positive discrimination” because of historic unequal trade.

Criticism
Stop the anti-democratic practices of the WTO
The WTO is supposed to operate by consensus where each member country has equal say. The reality is very different. At the 4th WTO Ministerial in Doha, Qatar in November 2001, this was apparent. Key decisions were made in small "by invitation only" meetings and the U.S., EU, Canada and Japan (known as the "Quad" countries within the WTO) drove most of the agenda, despite opposition from countries in the South. In the run-up to the Cancun Ministerial, "Mini-Ministerials" are being organized in Australia, Japan and Egypt. Despite the fact that key decisions and discussions that affect all WTO members are on the agenda for these meetings, only a certain group of countries is invited. The powerful Quad countries will participate in all of the Mini-Ministerials, as will a small number of developing countries and the WTO Secretariat. The Mini-Ministerial process is aimed at forging consensus for the 145-member WTO with only a handful of countries - is fundamentally flawed and demonstrates the undemocratic nature of the WTO.
Stop the GATS Attack!
Initiated in February 2000, far-reaching negotiations are taking place which aim to expand the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) regime which could subordinate democratic governance in countries throughout the world to global trade rules. These GATS 2000 negotiations are taking place behind closed doors with little or no consultation of the sectors most affected by them.
For many countries in the South, this invasion of peoples basic rights is not new. Over the last several decades, the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and the World Bank have been used to force many governments in the South to dismantle their public services and allow foreign-based healthcare, education and water corporations to deliver services on a "for profit" basis. Under the proposed GATS rules, developing countries could experience a further dismantling of local service providers, restrictions on the development of domestic service providers, and the creation of new monopolies dominated by corporate service providers based in the North. By dramatically increasing market control by corporations and by threatening the future of public services, the GATS 2000 agenda could trigger a global assault on the commons and democracy both in the North and the South. Moreover, the binding enforcement mechanisms of the WTO will ensure that this agenda is not only implemented, but rendered irreversible.
Stop Corporate Patent Protectionism –
Seeds & Medicine are Human Rights, not Commodities
All intellectual property policies must allow governments to limit patent protection in order to protect public health and safety. This is especially essential in relation to life-saving medicines and life forms. The patenting of life-forms and their parts, including microorganisms, must be prohibited in all national and international regimes. Current intellectual property rules in trade pacts, such as the WTO’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement, obstruct consumer access to essential medicines and other goods, lead to private appropriation of life forms and traditional knowledge, undermine biodiversity, and keep impoverished countries from increasing their levels of social and economic welfare. There is no basis for inclusion of such intellectual property claims in a trade agreement.
At the Doha Ministerial, the WTO agreed to non-binding language stating that the TRIPS agreement should not prevent WTO members from taking measurers to protect the public health. Since the language was non-binding, the reality is unfortunately that the TRIPS agreement still makes it hard to make affordable medicines available to people. In addition, pharmaceutical companies are angling to weaken and destroy even this non-binding pro-public health interpretation at the Cancun Ministerial.
No Patents on Life
The patenting of life forms and their parts, and other intellectual property rights over biological resources must be prohibited in all national and international regimes. Genetic diversity is not a category of private property, and biopiracy or theft of traditional knowledge must be stopped.
Food is a Basic Human Right: Stop the Agriculture Agreement Fraud and Calamity
The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) is fraudulent because the subsidies going to export oriented industrial farming have not been reduced (but instead have gone up), whereas the small farmers are suffering from import liberalization wiping out their livelihoods and incomes. To avoid further calamities to millions of small farmers, action must be taken immediately to drastically reduce or remove support for export-oriented agriculture and to reverse import liberalization.
Measures taken to promote and protect genuine food sovereignty and security as well as to promote small farmers practicing sustainable agriculture must be exempted from international trade rules. The trading system must not undermine the livelihood of peasants, small farmers, artisanal fishers and indigenous peoples that support local economies.
The basic human right to food can only be realized in a system where food sovereignty is guaranteed, meaning the right of peoples to define their own food and agricultural policies as well as the right to produce their basic foods in a manner respecting cultural and productive diversity.
No Investment Liberalization
The WTO Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) Agreement must be eliminated. All countries and especially third world countries must have the right to use policy options (such as local content policy) to increase the capacity of their own productive sectors, especially small and medium enterprises. One of the outcomes of the Doha ministerial was to open the door to possible negotiations on the so-called "New Issues" (investment, competition policy, procurement and trade facilitation) despite opposition from countries in the South. This will be one of the main points of controversy in Cancun, as the EU and Japan in particular continue to push for these negotiations. OWINFS opposes any attempts to start negotiations on investment rules, investment framework or an investment agreement of whatever kind in the WTO.
Prioritize Social Rights and the Environment
Trade liberalization encourages richer countries to consume more and poorer countries to export more. The end result is an increasingly polluted environment (through spiraling waste and transport-related pollution levels, for example) and the alarmingly rapid loss of irreplaceable natural resources. Furthermore, the WTO and other free trade agreements, which drive this destructive process, also include rules that undermine hard-won national and international legislation designed to protect peoples' environment. The "environment" will be a key negotiating topic for governments meeting in Cancun. It has been placed on the agenda by the EU in a very limited way, but there is little prospect of any real change, since the WTO's raison d'être is to increase the pace of the overall liberalization process.
‘The WTO only serves the interests of multinational corporations’






The accusation
“The WTO is not a democratic institution [1], and yet its policies impact all aspects of society and the planet. The WTO rules are written by and for corporations with inside access to the negotiations [2]. For example, the US Trade Representative relies on its 17 ‘Industry Sector Advisory Committees’ to provide input into trade negotiations. Citizen input by consumer, environmental, human rights and labor organizations is consistently ignored. Even requests for information are denied [3], and the proceedings are held in secret.


‘The WTO undermines national sovereignty’





The accusation
“By creating a supranational court system that has the power to economically sanction countries to force them to comply with its rulings, the WTO has essentially replaced national governments with an unelected, unaccountable corporate-backed government [1]. For the past nine years, the European Union has banned beef raised with artificial growth hormones. The WTO recently ruled that this public health law is a barrier to trade and should be abolished. The EU has to rollback its ban or pay stiff penalties [2]. Under the WTO, governments can no longer act in the public interest [3].



‘The WTO is killing people’





The accusation
“The WTO's fierce defense of intellectual property rights — patents, copyrights and trademarks — comes at the expense of health and human lives [1]. The organization's support for pharmaceutical companies against governments [2] seeking to protect their people's health has had serious implications for places like sub-Saharan Africa, where 80 percent of the world's new AIDS cases are found. The US government, on behalf of US drug companies, is trying to block developing countries' access to less expensive, generic, life-saving drugs. For example, the South African government has been threatened with a WTO challenge over proposed national health laws that would encourage the use of generic drugs [3], ban the practice of manufacturers offering economic incentives to doctors who prescribe their products [4] and institute ‘parallel importing,’ which allows companies to import drugs from other countries where the drugs are cheaper [5].


The WTO undermines local development and penalizes poor countries’





The accusation
“The WTO’s ‘most favored nation’ provisions require all WTO member countries to treat each other equally and to treat all corporations from these countries equally regardless of their track record [1]. Local policies aimed at rewarding companies who hire local residents, use domestic materials, or adopt environmentally sound practices are essentially illegal [2] under the WTO. Under the WTO rules, developing countries are prohibited from following the same polices that developed countries pursued, such as protecting nascent, domestic industries until they can be internationally competitive [3].


The WTO is increasing inequality’





The accusation
“Free trade is not working for the majority [1] of the world. During a the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment — 1960 to 1998 — inequality worsened [2] both internationally and within countries. The UN Development Program reports that the richest 20 percent of the world's population consume 86 percent of the world's resources while the poorest 80 percent consume just 14 percent. WTO rules have hastened these trends [3] by opening up countries to foreign investment and thereby making it easier for production to go where the labor is cheapest and most easily exploited and environmental costs are low. This pulls down wages and environmental standards in developed countries who are having to compete globally [also 3].


The WTO is destroying the environment’





The accusation
The WTO is being used by corporations to dismantle hard-won environmental protections, who call them barriers to trade. In 1993 the very first WTO panel ruled that a regulation of the US Clean Air Act, which required both domestic and foreign producers alike to produce cleaner gasoline, was illegal [1]. Recently, the WTO declared illegal a provision of the Endangered Species Act [2] that requires shrimp sold in the US to be caught with an inexpensive device that allows endangered sea turtles to escape. The WTO is currently negotiating an agreement that would eliminate tariffs on wood products, which would increase the demand for timber and escalate deforestation [3].


The WTO undermines national sovereignty’





The accusation
“By creating a supranational court system that has the power to economically sanction countries to force them to comply with its rulings, the WTO has essentially replaced national governments with an unelected, unaccountable corporate-backed government [1]. For the past nine years, the European Union has banned beef raised with artificial growth hormones. The WTO recently ruled that this public health law is a barrier to trade and should be abolished. The EU has to rollback its ban or pay stiff penalties [2]. Under the WTO, governments can no longer act in the public interest [3].


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